Commentary

Expecting Decency

The Mentors in Violence Prevention program, better known as MVP, is a new training program for Lowers that focuses on issues of gender-based violence and sexual assault and how to prevent these incidents from happening both on and off campus. For 90 minutes nearly every Saturday morning in the Fall Term, 53 other students and I met in Samuel Phillips Hall to cover a different topic of the program’s curriculum. As the MVP program just finished, and we are focusing on how to continue the program’s legacy, I took some time to reflect on what has happened during the multiple training sessions. While I am proud of the steps that Andover is taking to abolish sexual assault on campus, I am a bit skeptical of the praise my fellow MVP program participants and I have received for wanting to put an end to such a horrible yet prevalent issue in our world.

While it is certainly wonderful that a group of Lowers are tackling the weighty issue of sexual assault, it should not be treated as a groundbreaking revelation. Sexual assault education and bystander training should not be something special, but rather programming that everyone on and off this campus should be participating in. No one is congratulated for not being racist or sexist or homophobic – in a similar way, the students in the MVP program should not be seen as heroes, but rather a new norm.

We did not “sacrifice” our Saturday mornings to educate ourselves about the prevention of horrible and illegal acts. Seeing as 215 students reported in The Phillipian’s “State of The Academy” to have been sexually harassed and 80 reported having been assaulted, Andover students should not only be willing but expected to take a stand against sexual violence. We are not entitled to some sort of recognition. There should be an understanding that simply being a decent human being is not worthy of praise.

Instead of rewarding students for doing the right thing, I think we should be constantly encouraging students to do what’s best for themselves and their surroundings, whether in their hometowns or at Andover. There should be higher expectations of human decency for students on this campus, so we can enter our post-Andover lives without feeling entitled to compensation for doing what is necessary and expected. We at MVP do not need praise or a pizza dinner or another line on our resume: We only want to make campus a safer space for everyone. Just because a person will not get any recognition for not saying anything offensive or actually doing the right thing does not mean that those actions should stop.

While some might say that we should give credit where credit is due, I would disagree. Of course, students should be rewarded for going above and beyond to make Andover’s campus and the world we live in a better place, but that reward should only come after doing incredible work – not immediately after taking steps in the right direction. Students should not be motivated by rewards or praise. Everyone should want to be a better, genuinely good person.

Participating in activist and social awareness programs like MVP should not be an anomaly. Instead, we need to strive to make the program available to everyone and educate students regarding the importance of attending such programs like MVP. Only when many students willingly partake in the MVP program will we be able to take the first real step towards abolishing sexual assault on our campus and beyond.

Jan 15, 2016